New Year’s has come and gone, and along with it, the requisite resolutions. In the midwest, the season comes at such a strange time–so much time spent in the dark. Even the few daylight hours can prove to be gloomy and depressing and a challenge for those trying to change their behaviors.

My local gym launches a contest in late January to see who can lose the most weight in a 90 day period, and I think it has taken a conscious effort on my part to stay goal focused, goal oriented. I have many ambitions, which include carving out more creative writing time as well as recommitting myself to a Weight Watchers weight loss program. Several years back I lost a grand total of 87 lbs, but lately some of those unwanted pounds have crept back, and I find it much, much harder to recapture that “Honeymoon” feeling when I was super motivated to lose weight in the first place. Over the course of the first three weeks back at Weight Watchers, I actually gained five lbs. I felt that I had gotten on the wrong train, a missed connection, perhaps, or the wrong line altogether. It was as though I were traveling through Europe, and instead of heading for Paris, my train was destined for some unnamed, underdeveloped Eastern European city.

I hadn’t bothered to track my food or eating patterns, one of the cores related to success. Trying to lose weight felt like a punishment rather than a worthy challenge, and I dreaded feeling accountable for my food choices.

Interestingly, launching in the wrong direction affected my creative work as well. I’ve been listening to an audiobook called “Making Ideas Happen,” geared toward increasing creative productivity, and one of the staples of the program is making yourself accountable through clearly defined action steps. Clearly defined goals and action steps has made it possible to achieve success in many arenas, including my original weight loss in addition to quitting drinking and applying for and being accepted into a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing program at Northwestern University.

I’m also lucky that I’ve had weight loss success previously so that I know what is possible and doable, but losing weight does indeed demand a mental shift. Not only does “Making Ideas Happen” emphasize the importance of clearly defined action steps, it also purports that community and communal accountability helps creatives achieve their goals. In the arena of losing weight, having a community of people also looking to achieve weight loss success helps motivate me, knowing that each week I am accountable and check in with a core group of people, some of whom I can also call my friends.

Truly, you’ve got to believe it before you can achieve it, but at the same time it’s clear to me that I can start my day over at any time. So if in fact I started off my weight loss journey on the wrong foot, misread the train schedule, I can still be new again, and recommit myself to my goals. This past week I experienced a two pound weight loss. What a relief that was because I believe success builds on success. Now that I’ve got momentum in my favor, it’s much simpler to continue moving forward, embracing opportunities for success, rather than dwelling in negativity. There’s a saying I trust in: the more you focus on the problem, the bigger the problem becomes. The more you focus on the solution, the clearly the solution becomes.